record steelhead caught in Idaho
Idaho Fish and Game

Massive Steelhead Smashes the Idaho State Record

Even cooler: It was caught on a vintage hardy reel.

Steelhead fishing can often be a rise-and-grind sport—and anglers can grind a whole lot before the odds pay off. But when they do, there's nothing quite like it. On October 6, the grind paid off in a big way for one Idaho fisherman: a new state record steelhead.

Kyriaco Panayiotou of McCall, Idaho was fishing the legendary Clearwater River, every steelhead fisherman's dream destination. Like many hardcore steelhead anglers, he was using a long spey rod. They're favored by steelhead anglers because they're easier to cast (and roll cast), need very little room to backcast, and allow you to cover more water in a shorter period of time, an essential advantage if you're playing long odds fishing for steelheads.

Unlike many anglers, however, Panayiotou was using a vintage Hardy Perfect reel. These reels originally came out in 1891 and were designed for catching big fish. Despite being made over 120 years ago, they're still quite popular among steelhead anglers.

Panayiotou was floating his fly at about 120 feet when the monster bit.

"At around 30 degrees of a swing, this beautiful wild steelhead buck boiled to the surface and grabbed the fly with authority," Panayiotou told Idaho Fish and Game. "The vintage Hardy Perfect reel could do nothing in slowing down this fish... it's something that I'll never forget."

Panayiotou managed to wrangle the fish in close, and he immediately knew he'd landed The One. Like most areas, steelhead fishing in Idaho is catch and release. Panayiotou was able to measure the fish with his flexible tape and take a quick photo before he released the fish to continue its journey.

The steelhead measured 41 inches long, a full 1.75 inches longer than the previous record, set by Scott Turner in 2021.

Joe DuPont, the Clearwater Fisheries Manager, told Fish and Game, "In a typical year, the number of steelhead in the 40-inch range is less than 1% of the run." He looked back over the data of steelhead trapped at Lower Granite Dam, and of the 261,706 trapped, only four were 41 inches of larger.

Even though Panayiotou released the fish, he still walked away with the state record and some inspiration to keep on grinding.

READ MORE: How to Swing a Wet Fly to Trick a Trout